Black colleges suffer cuts

March 10, 2000

South Africa's formerly white universities received most of the state subsidy increases for higher education in last week's government budget while some historically black institutions had their allocations slashed dramatically.

The reason is student numbers, one of the factors on which higher education subsidies are based.

Admissions at historically white institutions, which are still the best in the country, have remained buoyant over the past few years. At the same time, several predominantly black universities have shrunk to as little as half their former size - the result of a smaller pool of school-leavers qualifying for university and a shift of students to technikons and private universities and colleges.

Overall, the higher education budget this financial year is just over R7 billion (Pounds 685 million). Of this, R6.2 billion has been allocated to South Africa's 36 universities and technikons.

Kader Asmal, the education minister, admitted that this year's allocation represented a decrease in the average state funding level of 1.3 per cent. South African higher education institutions now receive an average of 63.4 per cent of their income from the state. The rest derives primarily from student fees and fund-raising.

But the national student financial aid scheme, which helps fund poor students through bursaries and loans, received a 14 per cent increase in its allocation, from R390 million to R443.5 million this financial year. Professor Asmal said that this indicated the government's continued commitment to ensuring the access of economically disadvantaged students to higher education.

The redress allocation this year is R30 million, which will be used to fund academic development programmes designed to improve the success rates of educationally disadvantaged students entering the system.

The University of Pretoria - an institution that has shrugged off its conservative Afrikaner shackles with remarkable success after apartheid and now has ,000 full and part-time students - gets the biggest budget and increase this year (R534 million, up from R477 million).

The University of Cape Town, which receives R308 million, R28 million more than last year, got 1 per cent less than expected. Other universities to receive sizeable rises were the long-distance University of South Africa (R417 million to R458 million), Natal (R301 to R336 million), Rand Afrikaans University (R212 million to R241 million), Port Elizabeth (R105 million to R138 million) and Durban Westville (R143 million to R161 million).

Several historically black universities received small increases, but the budgets of several others were slashed. The University of Fort Hare's subsidy was cut by R8 million to just R85 million, the University of the Western Cape receives R145 million compared with last year's R159 million, and the Medical University of South Africa dropped from R158 million to R154 million.

Gessler Nkondo, vice-chancellor of Venda University (income down R7 million to R83 million through shrinking student numbers), said the effect of the cutbacks would reverberate throughout institutions.

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